Archive for the ‘Life and Ministry’ Category

Everyone is looking for excellence, or at least a lot of people are.  A quick search of books on excellence will demonstrate the ubiquitous desire for this elusive quality.  The books that pop up span the spectrum of milieus.  Personal excellence, business excellence, academic excellence, excellence in sports, excellence in parenting are all represented in even a cursory review.  I have been pondering this topic since I opened a file on it in August of 2019.  I just could never envision the direction that I wanted it to go.  I had an experience that changed that today.

I went to Chic Fil A for lunch.  I have always been professionally impressed with the overall service model that Chic Fil A has developed and even more so that they have maintained (hupomone has a business application too).  Here is what I saw today.  Chic Fil A has been faced with a pandemic just as every other business, organization, school etc. in the world.  Many businesses and organizations have made adaptations in order to continue to operate.  They have also made concessions in quality and service.  They have cut little holes in their paradigm boxes in order to comply or avoid liability.  Others have just given up, not being able to see a way to make their paradigms remotely work.  I am not going to go into the details but what I saw today was an organization that looked at the operational exigencies of a world in pandemic and instead of cutting little holes in their operational paradigm to adapt and comply, accepting the cultural compromises that accompany such efforts, they just blew it up.  They restarted at their core values and said “How can we best express our core values operationally during the pandemic.”  Now I cannot vouch for every Chic Fil A, I have only visited this one recently (unfortunately Chic Fil A does not fit in my current nutritional regimen) but this location’s brand new paradigm is a wonderful expression of excellence in the face of adversity.

The Bible has a lot to say about excellence and being excellent.  The two Greek words that we translate as excellence and excellent (Kalos and Arete) among other things, are used well over 100 times in the New Testament.  Arete carries with it a sense of moral goodness or virtuous thought, feeling or action.  Paul uses this word once in Phillipians,

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Phillipians 4:8

Paul calls us to “dwell on” or meditate on/think about things that have this quality of moral goodness.  However he doesn’t just leave this quality in the thought realm.  In the very next verse he says,

“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Phillipians 4:9

So we need to dwell on some things, but what things?  Things learned, Things received, things heard and things seen, then these things must become things practiced but it starts with the idea of excellence. Peter uses arete in direct reference to the attributes of God.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9

How awesome is that as people set apart by God for His Glory we have the opportunity to proclaim His excellencies! The same qualities that we are called to dwell on and then put into practice. This is why our walk of maturing in Christ never ends. We should always be learning, receiving, hearing and seeing! This is how God works in us.

Peter then echoes Paul’s call for diligence and equates God’s excellence with our own as he summarizes the spiritual process of maturity.

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-8

Here, Arete meets Hupomone as we are transformed into his likeness and become “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How amazing is it that when we apply ourselves to the process diligently, the Holy Spirit honors our commitment and we begin to evince the fruit of the Spirit and and take on the excellence of our Father in Heaven!

So how does all this relate to Chic Fil A? Chic Fil A has anchored the excellence of their brand not in a series of procedures and practices. If this had been the case, as they attempted to adapt to the pandemic they would have clung to their old way of doing things, believing (as many do) that excellence resides in those practices. What I saw in my visit was an organization that understands what is excellent in their industry. They put the customer experience before their operational manual and understood that in this case they didn’t need to make as minimal adaptations to their practices as they could to operate under these conditions. Instead they blew up the manual and took all they had learned, received, heard and seen and molded it into a new thing that pursued true excellence. If you are doing things because it has always been done that way, maybe it is time to stop.

“8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8,9

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I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
JOHN 10:9

I think that right about now, we could all use some good pasture.

Humanity has a tendency to spend much of its time looking for good pasture. We do that in many different ways and with just as many different expectations. The unfortunate reality is that I think that few find what they think they are looking for. I would suggest that the core of this problem lies more in our definition of what a good pasture really is. The Gospel of John chapter 10 contains Jesus’ beautiful parable of the Good Shepherd. Jesus contrasts the voice of the Good Shepherd with that of the thief who comes to coax the sheep not to pasture but to destruction. He then makes a second comparison, the hired hand. The hired hand is not a bad person. He does not carry the stigma of the thief. His intent is not destruction but he is not the shepherd. He does his best to lead to good pasture and he does “his job” the best that he can but when the wolves arrive on the scene, he flees. The sheep are snatched up and scattered.

If you have followed me long you have read about Hupomone. This concept is beautifully applicable here. Our humanity wants to focus on the pasture, the circumstances of our lives. In fact we come to rely on the pasture and when the pasture doesn’t live up to our expectations we are devastated. We think that we have done something wrong or that God has somehow turned his back on us. The reality is that the pasture of circumstance, as beautiful as it can be is a changeable and potentially dangerous place. Bad things happen in pastures. Storms crash, wolves hunt, lions prowl and thieves lurk, all in pastures. They are attracted by the presence of the sheep. Sheep that are focused on the pasture miss the mark in two ways. Peter remarks on the first in 1 Peter 5:8, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Sheep that are focused on the pasture are not alert. They do not see the danger coming. The second way that sheep who are focused on the pasture miss the mark is found in Hebrews 12, “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Sheep that are focused on the pasture have taken their eyes off of the shepherd who is the true source of their health and peace.

The value of the Hupomone pasture is not in the circumstances but in the Shepherd. When we are focused on the pasture we can make very bad decisions. In the old testament the kingdom of Judah relied on Egypt during their rebellion against Assyria. Lot looked at the pastures around Sodom and Gomorrah and decided they were where he should be. A phrase that comes to my mind when I think of this type of pasture focus is…it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The flip side of the coin is demonstrated when the nation of Israel had just left Egypt. Things got a little tight and uncomfortable. Suddenly the pastures back in Egypt did not look so bad. It was only Moses’ Hupomone focus on God that kept them moving forward in the care of their loving shepherd. Then as they approached the promised land they sent out a dozen spies. 10 of the spies returned with the report that this pasture was too difficult. They took their eyes off of the God of the miraculous who had delivered them from Egypt. This resulted in 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

One of the greatest pasture stories in Scripture is found in Daniel 3. Three young men of Israel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to compromise their faith in their shepherd. Along with Daniel they had come to a pasture that made every effort to distract them from their focus on God. This culminated in their refusal to bow down to a golden idol of King Nebuchadnezzar. As they stand before the King in this pasture at this time facing death in a furnace they say this, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if he does not, let it be known to you O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” God did indeed physically rescue them from the furnace but even if he hadn’t, these boys were (and are) safe in the hands of the Great Shepherd.

The best way to enjoy the pastures that God has for you is to enter through the door provided by Jesus Christ and focus on and follow closely the Great Shepherd. It is not about the circumstances of the pasture around you, it is about the Shepherd that you are with.

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom”

Isaiah 40:11

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Saturday

 

I Tend to repost this during Easter but as we finish up 2020 and the stories of difficulty and loss pile up, I felt that it was a good word as we move forward into 2021 I feel a weariness as the shock and awe of the pandemic fades into a daily grind and we look to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

We celebrate Good Friday.  We celebrate Easter.  What about Saturday?

Sandwiched between the suffering of the greatest sacrifice ever made and the glory of the most magnificent triumph ever won, past present or future, is What? I am going to call it Hupomone Day! because it is the Saturday’s of our life that grow true perseverance.

How often do we find ourselves on Saturday.  That blank day between the suffering and triumph.  At least as we watch the events unfolding we can focus on the horror, the pain.  We can anticipate the miraculous escape, the triumphant turning of the tide as God magnificently brings the victory.  Then it doesn’t happen the way we want or expect.  The night falls,  a restless night, perhaps without sleep, certainly with disturbed dreams.  Then what about Saturday, what do we do?  The dawn rises, but all that we can see is Friday’s darkness.  The birds are singing, but all we can hear are the screams and jeers of the crowd; the hammering of the nails; the moans of his mother; the pounding of our own heart.

What about Saturday.  What do we do?  What should we do?  Some will run.  Some will hide.  Some will lose faith and return to the life they had known before they felt the Master’s touch.  Some will struggle and doubt, but:

struggle and doubt + faith = Hupomone

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Some of us have longer Saturdays than others.  Take Thomas.  I often hear people make fun of doubting Thomas.  I can only imagine that his fellow disciples gave him some ribbing but here is the deal:  Thomas Stayed!  He made it through a Saturday that was longer and more intense than any of the others.  I can only believe this made his Sunday morning all the more amazing.  Thomas grew through his Saturday.  He walked away with an understanding of Hebrews 11:1 straight from the lips of his Savior:  Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29.

If Friday is Good Friday and Sunday is Easter Sunday; Saturday is Hupomone Saturday.  Saturday is when we remember His Word.  Saturday is when we remember His touch.  On Saturday the fellowship of our brother’s and sister’s in Christ becomes paramount.  On Saturday we scream out to God.  On Saturday we worship, we cry, we hurt, we heal…in-spite of ourselves.  On Saturday we grow and mature as on no other day.  Perhaps that is why Saturday is in God’s plan for us.  I have experienced a few Saturday’s in my life.  Some I am still experiencing.  While the Sunday mornings are great!  It is the Saturday’s that draw me close to God and close to God’s people.

It is in the midst of Saturday the I make strides towards Philippians 2 , learning humility, allowing God to work in me. It is on Saturday that God makes those subtle changes in me that draw my spirit, soul and body closer to having His attitude and His values and to truly having His love.

It is on Saturday that we practice Hebrews 11:1 like no other day.  Do we trust the promise?  Are we certain of our hope? It is on Saturday that we say in the midst of it all with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

Unfortunately I think that it is also on Saturday that all to many lose faith, not being able to hold on to the promise.  It is on Saturday that as brother’s and sister’s in Christ we fail each other as on no other day.  Perhaps this is because we do not realize that everyday is someone’s Saturday.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 

Are you in the midst of Saturday?  Be certain Sunday morning is coming, and when it does the most miraculous thing, the most miraculous change will not be in the situation that you are experiencing, it will be in YOU!

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Luke 2:43

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

Luke 8:15

15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Luke 21:19

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

The writers of the Gospels use the word Hupomone or Hupomeno (the verb) six times. Five of the references are the gospel writers quoting Jesus and the sixth is a reference to Jesus himself. I love these references because they make a real statement about the nature of Hupomone living and they connect Hupomone directly to our savior. In my previous post we looked at these passages in Matthew and Mark. Today we will see how Luke utilized my favorite Greek word.

The first verse is pretty cool because it establishes something about Hupomone in a very concrete way. Luke chapter two is the Gospel Wikipedia on Jesus under the heading “early childhood”. It takes us from His birth up to His baptism by John the Baptist. It includes this story about a trip to Jerusalem with His family for the Feast of the Passover. This was not an unusual trip for Mary and Joseph. They went every year to this special celebration in the city that was the center of the worship for the Jews. It is verse 43 that makes it unusual and is why Luke includes it in his Gospel.

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

When everyone else gathered up and returned home, Jesus stayed behind. Luke says that Jesus “Hupemeinen“. I would suggest that Hupomone is not a function of action, but a function of position. Luke further emphasizes this when three days later Joseph and Mary finally track down the missing boy.

“When they saw Him they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49)

Jesus is not focused on behavior. He is focused on position. He doesn’t say that he is learning or teaching or ministering. He simply needed to be in His Father’s house. Everything else followed that. Matthew quotes Jesus on this very point, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus understood the importance of Hupomone. In his parable of the sower found in Luke chapter 8 he first describes the lack of lasting impact that the Gospel has when Hupomone is absent. Luke is the only Gospel writer that tags the positive end of this parable with “Hupomone”. It is this positional quality that Luke recognizes as the difference between the unproductive soil and seed and the productive soil and seed. Indeed the soil must remain positionally with the seed and the seed positionally with the soil in order for the Gospel to flourish (Matthew: “bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty”)

The final verse that we are considering in Luke is a retelling of the discourse on the troubles facing God’s Hupomone people. Luke here highlights the separation between circumstance and Hupomone. He presents the dichotomy between the perceived human condition and the reality of Hupomone living in Luke 21. This is the same discourse that we find in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 .

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Amid all of the betrayal, persecution and even death , “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your Hupomone you will gain your lives”. Our life does not depend on our parents, brothers, sisters, relatives or friends. It does not depend on our life circumstances at all, even to the point of physical death. Our life in Christ Jesus depends on one thing, Hupomone, remaining under Him regardless of what this world brings. It is a matter of spiritual position. Paul puts it this way in one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) This is the Hupomone Gospel.

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Matthew 10:22

22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Matthew 24:10-14

10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Mark 13:13

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

Luke 2:43

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

Luke 8:15

15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Luke 21:19

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

The writers of the Gospels use the work Hupomone or Hupomeno (the verb) six times. Five of the references are the gospel writers quoting Jesus and the sixth is a reference to Jesus himself. I love these references because the make a real statement about the nature of Hupomone living and they connect Hupomone directly to our savior.

Hupomone Living does not rely on the approval of others

Matthew records the first New Testament uses of Hupomone. In chapter 10, Jesus has invested the twelve with authority and power to heal all kinds of diseases and to cast out unclean spirits. He then commissions them to go out into the Jewish communities around them and proclaim the Kingdom of God. This commissioning speech is an exhortation to Hupomone. It embodies the separation of the Life in Christ from the circumstances in the world and then establishes the basis of Hupomone living on the overwhelming love of the Father and our identity in Jesus Christ.

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:7-8

Hupomone living has a purpose. It extends from the very heart of the Father. It is repeated throughout scripture. It is not a set of behaviors to receive spiritual brownie points or to enjoy some mystic experience. Jesus proclaims it again just before returning to the Father in what we term “The Great Commission”. The disciples model it throughout the book of Acts and Paul proclaims it when he says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone…” Romans 1:16

Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of Jesus and the disciples exiting the Temple after a session of teaching (Matthew 24 and Mark 13). For the sake of his concise style we will be looking at Mark’s rendition.

The disciples marvel at the beauty of the Temple and Jesus replies with a prophecy that the Temple will be destroyed. I can just imagine the disciples gathering and quietly discussing the bombshell amongst themselves before approaching Jesus and asking the obvious questions, “Excuse me Jesus, when is this going to happen?”. This launches Jesus into a long prophecy of persecution and hate directed at the children of God, but our focus is not on the circumstances but on the response. Jesus opens his instruction in Mark with, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and will lead many astray.’ In Ephesians 4 Paul says it this way, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” While Jesus walks through the circumstances to come, He separates the behavior of His followers from those circumstances with 4 instructions and then a conclusion.

  1. Do not be led astray. Mark 13:5
  2. Do not be alarmed. Mark 13:7 (Do not be Anxious. Mark 13:11)
  3. Be on your guard. Mark 13:9
  4. Bear witness before them. Mark 13:9 (Say whatever is given you…Mark 13:11)

All of this circumstance and instruction is followed with a conclusion.

“But the one who hupomeno to end will be saved” Mark 13:13

Boom. Mic Drop.

In my next post I will explore the balance of the Luke passages as I think they have a lot to say about Hupomone.

Blessings!

Sam

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In three short years Jesus gathered, trained and empowered a group of people who would stand the world on its ear and engender a spiritual revolution that would encompass the globe. It was a development program unequaled in history. I would also suggest that it is a program that not only can be repeated but one that we are called to repeat both as leaders seeking to develop those around us and as seekers looking to have the greatest impact for the Kingdom that we can.  Let’s take a look at four points of  Jesus’ development program.

  1. Lead in God’s timing

I think that in modern western society we are much too often guilty of leading in our timing. We think, “I have got this. After all, I have done this before.” The people of Israel certainly thought so as they eyed up the city of Ai (Joshua 7). The classic financial disclaimer comes to mind, “Past performance may not be indicative of future results”. In this particular case it got a bunch of people killed and what should have been an easy success (and was later) became a morale crushing defeat.

Jesus is the eternal son of God. He was the son God throughout his time on earth and continues to be the son of God for eternity. Yet He waited 33 years before he started His earthly ministry and before he started the development process that would forever change the world. He repeatedly deferred to the Father’s timing and in doing so taught His disciples to do the same. This obedience to the Holy Spirit empowered the New Testament church to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6)

2. Lead in lifestyle

The Bible tells us very little about His childhood, but I think we can reasonably look at his lifestyle habits throughout his ministry and extrapolate that they did not arise in a vacuum. I believe that Jesus spent that 33 years carefully establishing an earthly lifestyle that maximized his relationship with the Father and prepared him for the empowering of the Holy Spirit that would be the highlight of his ministry and the sacrifice that would be the fulfillment of His purpose on earth. The blend of Holy Spirit inspired action with times of solitude and prayer are the result of careful personal cultivation. Lifestyle is street level development. This was the purpose of the 33 years. Jesus developed the lifestyle so that he could impart it to his followers. This is an area so severely lacking in today’s leadership.  Lifestyle leadership is rarely discussed and often dismissed. The personal life of our leaders is too often considered irrelevant or simply ignored .  Paul spends considerable time in his letters both to churches and leaders talking about the necessity of lifestyle leadership.

3. Lead in the small things

John tells us the story of Christ’s first miracle. It was not an incredible life changing healing. He did not raise someone from the dead or cast out a demon. Jesus fulfilled a simple (for him) request from his mother. Actually, it wasn’t even really a request. She (as mothers will do) simply pointed out the situation. “They have no wine” (John 2:3) and then set the stage for obedience. This was the first recorded lesson for Jesus’ new followers and here is the kicker, Jesus wasn’t the teacher, Mary was. We too often view development as telling people what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Mary does none of these things. She simply puts truth on the table and then sets up the mode for obedience. “Whatever he says to you, do it.” We too often want to raise the dead and heal the sick when there is a wedding that needs saving. We can put the event even more in perspective when we look at the end of the story. “the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, ‘ Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now'” Jesus did not even get the credit. It is likely that Peter was there for this event. I can only imagine his reaction to this lack of recognition for his rabbi.  I am not sure that this was a lesson learned.  However, it would be repeated.

4.  Lead in the big things

In chapter 8 of his Gospel, the Apostle John tells us the story of the woman caught in adultery.  Jesus took a night of respite after a particularly acrimonious round of dispute with the Temple authorities, retreating to the Mount of Olives for the night.  However in the morning he again appeared in the Temple courts and as usual the people gathered around this man who spoke with such authority.  This morning the Pharisees and teachers in the Temple space laid a trap for him involving a woman they had caught in adultery.  This was a life and death matter under the Law.  This was a big thing. 

They had failed to trap Jesus with a web of little things in their disputes, so they brought out the big gun.  The fact that John notes that it was in fact a trap may well indicate that there was something going on here not readily apparent to you and me.  Jesus’ response also probably has significance beyond what the text states as he quietly drew in the sand.  I have heard many sermons on different theories about what Jesus drew but that is neither here nor there for our discussion. 

When faced with the big trap, Jesus led in a big way.  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  I imagine she quickly scanned the crowd wondering if any of them had the hubris to heft a stone.  “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”  Jesus had a big answer for the Pharisee’s big trap.  While it saved one woman’s life it taught an even bigger lesson to his followers.  When the law meets grace, grace wins. “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you.” Jesus declared, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  John quotes Jesus later in this chapter, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  While Jesus did not need this assurance we have it. Lead in the big things and guess what if you screw up, its ok because when the law meets grace, grace wins.

Timing, lifestyle, small things, big things, when the people of God follow Jesus the world turns upside down and grace wins.

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Today is an anniversary of sorts. We signed the lease on the home that we now live in six years ago. That might not seem super unusual but let me share the story.

We spent the majority of 2013 in the hospital going through Allana’s treatment for Leukemia (chemotherapy) and then a bone marrow transplant. We were separated from our 5 children, from our ministry and basically from our lives, first at Flower Hospital in Sylvania Ohio and then at The Cleveland Clinic. A more detailed account of this is available in other blog posts and “The Nineteen Days” chapter of The Hupomone Principle. Though she was cancer free, Allana remained fairly ill, really for almost two years, as she recovered not only from the impact of the Leukemia but also from the harsh treatment protocols. We began to get our lives back together and move the ministry (which my Mother-in-Law had unselfishly maintained while we were gone) forward again. Then in April of 2014 the executive directors called us for a meeting and let us know that the decision had been made to close the ministry which included our home. They graciously allowed us to stay in the ministry house until November. So, the search began. We initially looked at purchasing the ministry house but that was not feasible. Then we looked at other properties in and around our neighborhood hoping to continue the ministry on our own, but the doors did not open.

We were blessed by the outpouring of support that had begun with Allana’s diagnosis and continued through this time, but we still could not find anything that suited the needs of our family and our finances. It was during this time that I found employment at Cherry Street Mission Ministries.

Then one day Allana was perusing Craigs List ads for rental homes. She found one and showed it to me. It was all the way on the other side of town. I did not understand why she was even looking at it but I have learned when she has these moments to listen to her listening to the Holy Spirit. This is a key to Hupomone living. I called the number and a very nice lady said she would be happy to show us the home and could do it right then.

When we arrived she gave us the tour. It was not really a good fit for us, but as we spoke, I let her know that I was employed at Cherry Street and a little of our story to explain our current finances. To our surprise she said, “Then you must know my daughter…”. I did indeed, she worked in the office next to mine. As we continued looking at the property the owner stopped and said, ” This isn’t the home for you but I know what is.” She took us to different property and we immediately knew this was it.

We were incredibly blessed as the landlord made the rent work for us and just asked that we purchase the home as soon as we were able as her intent was not to rent this property but to flip it. I told her we would and on November 6th of 2014 we signed our lease to buy agreement with a five year term which was my best guess at how long it would take. However, God had different plans and we purchased the house 18 months later.

Disruption, patience, trust, listening, believing, pursuing, receiving, these are attributes of the Hupomone Principle. This is not to say that there was not a lot of grief, fear, concern and doubt along the way (hence my initial reaction to a property on the other side of town) but God is so faithful even in the midst our instability. There were many moments in this story when I could not see or even conceive of the outcome, but that is ok because God loves me anyways! Just like he loves you where-ever you are at.

If you are interested in an easy to read and concise look at The Hupomone Principle, it is available in paperback and on Kindle.

HERE.

It doesn’t always feel like Hupomone, sometimes it just feels like life….

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Well it has been a heck of year! If you are interested in some of the goings on in the Guidry household you can check out that page. Along with everything else going on I was working on completing, editing and formatting my first book. It is now released on Amazon. I have two other projects on the back burner and I will be starting work on an MBA in January but I am going to make FanIntoFlame.net a priority and get some content out there. I am also seriously considering doing some video blogging here along with my other posts.

So what can you look forward to (or dread…but then why would you come back?) here over the next year. I will be extending my treatment of biblical perseverance and also exploring some leadership concepts around organizational culture. I look forward to sharing some new ideas and re-exploring some old ones as I reconnect with you all. I am sure that launching myself back into the scholastic world and my very cool new position at YES FM will bring up some new ideas and topics. So stay tuned new stuff is on the way.

I want to thank you for your continued prayers and support for myself and my family. I would be remiss to not ask you to check the page on my new book, The Hupomone Principle. It is available on Amazon.

As a side note, YES FM is currently raising the funds it needs for the next 6 months of operations. This is a challenging season for all ministries and ours is no exception. Check out www.yeshome.com. If you are looking for a ministry that reaches out into the world in a truly unique fashion, YES FM might be the one that you are looking for. Our upbeat and edgy Christian format reaches youths and families in a pretty much ignored format. We would love to add you to the YES FM family.

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“I have plans for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This is one of those posts that I have been sitting on for awhile.  God spoke this to me for the first time when I walked away from the career I had spent 25 years developing.  I of course wanted to know what his plan was and how it was going to play out.  What was this new vision that He was giving me?  The answer came foggily clear, “That I which I have placed in front of you.”  ??? ….and what does that mean, “That which I have placed in front of you.”  Ummm…I have 30, 60, 90 day goals and a 1, 3, 5 year plan, can you work with me?  “That which I have placed in front of you.”  Then He threw me a bone…here is what I want you to do for the next 30 days….and then I will let you know for the next 30 days.  Now this is not to say that this is God’s intended lifestyle for all (in fact I feel that it is most certainly not) but for this A type planner it was what I needed to move me to His economy.  Eleven years later it is the normal.  I have an expectation that God is going to clearly place my next task in front of me.

I believe that this is core of the Hupomone lifestyle and it is all too often lost in a world that values great sweeping vision and “out of the box” thinking.  Don’t get me wrong both of those things are wonderful but to enter the promised land sometimes you have to march around Jericho a few times and then shout and make a fool of yourself, just because God put it in front of you.  When the Israelite people first approached the promised land they were all ready for the milk and honey but they were not ready for that which God had placed in front of them.  The giants are always going to be there.  God will provide the sling and the stones but we need to pick them up and use them.  We need to be prepared to do that which God places in front of us.

Psalm 40:8 says “I delight to do your will, O my God, And Your law is written within my heart.”  David understood the importance of doing that which God placed in front of him and he knew that the way to be ready to do it was to be as intimate with God as he could be.  Our planning in this relationship is not the what, it is the Who.  David valued his intimacy with God.  This is why Paul holds David up as a wonderful example of  doing what God place in front of him.

After removing Saul, He made David their king.  God testified concerning him:  ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

Sometimes “That which God has placed in front of me” is a don’t instead of a do.  David’s friend urged him to kill Saul in the Cave when God had delivered Saul helpless before him.  David’s intimacy with God and his engagement with the Holy Spirit as God’s prophet allowed him to choose not the obvious solution but the one that God had placed in front of him.

“This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave.  Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.” Samuel 24:10

When we lose sight of what God has immediately before us, even as we tell ourselves that we are serving “the vision” that He has given us we become ineffective. Saul lost the immediacy of God’s will in the “big picture” of being king of Israel and in doing so he lost the very thing he pursued.  Samuel empowered by God responded to Saul’s loss of focus

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”  1 Samuel 15:22

David had his moments too.  Next to Goliath, he is probably most known for Bathsheba.  This is a consequence of losing focus on the things that God has placed in front you.  It is the separation of religion from doing “that which God has placed in front of me”.  We may not lose a kingdom over it but we lose our effectiveness for the Kingdom and we impede the transforming process of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  How we respond to these moments is as important as the event itself.  Saul became sullen and withdrawn from God.  David laid himself out before God in repentance and submission even as the consequence crashed around him. (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51).  It is in the maturing of our faith that we will be able to recognize the difference between the tasks that God has placed in front of us and the allure of the world.  The temptation to attribute the allure of worldly values to the task that God has for us is very real.  Our own thoughts and desires can blur the lines.  Saul fell victim to this deception as did David and so many others.

However we are not just responsible for ourselves.  We need to follow Paul’s example of prayer and fellowship.  He had never met the Colossians and yet his love for them and desire that they grow in their relationship with God is clear.  May we have the same focus in our love for others.  It is that God given love that may more than any other thing enable us to recognize and do that thing which God has put before us.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,”  Colossians 1:9-10

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SD

We didn’t call it “Social Distancing”.  It wasn’t a darling phrase for the media, social or otherwise.  However the reality is that this “new” phenomenon is not so new.  It is rooted in another idea that is not so new “Social Anxiety”.  I have watched this bad boy literally destroy lives.  People who refused to leave the safety of home for years, or even the safety of a single room.  I am guessing that some with Social Anxiety are feeling quite justified right now.  The truth is that the only difference between Social Distancing and Social Anxiety are a few grains of truth.  Both are practiced in different intensities by different people for different reasons. They both separate us from the fellowship that is a hallmark of our faith.

Allana and I battled with those grains of truth, along with battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Social Distancing is not new to us.  In fact in the big scheme of things our current situation is easy going.  Rewind to 2013, Allana is undergoing chemotherapy, innocuously called Hyper CVAD…except for maybe the Hyper part. The grains of truth are rooted in the fact that this protocol all but destroys a person’s immune system.  This was followed by a Bone Marrow Transplant.  Radiation and even more devastating Chemotherapy did in fact destroy Allana’s immune system so it could be replaced.  Social Distancing became a way of life almost literally overnight.  January 3rd we are in the hospital for Allana’s fever and abdominal pain.  January 4th we are in a special ward with its own ventilation system and limited access.  The cancer had already started the damage that the Chemotherapy would finish.  Suddenly, someone, anyone could quite unintentionally kill Allana with a single bacteria or a misplaced virus.  Our introduction to Social Distancing had begun.  It would separate us from our church, ministry, friends and most difficult, our children and family.  A single blessing was our newborn Nisa.  She was only 19 days old when Allana was diagnosed.  I made two decisions. First, I would not be separated from Allana throughout this experience and Second, Nisa would be with her mother for as long as she possibly could.

Allana had little choice but to practice Social Distancing.  The cancer and chemo left her tired and in pain much of the time.  Carefully orchestrated moments with her children and carefully vetted friends and family were in some cases more than she could handle.  Even as I walked the hallways of the hospital, purchasing coffee or food or just walking with the baby while Allana slept, I was acutely aware of the threat that all those around me posed.  Laying in bed at night I would inventory how I felt…was my throat sore…was that a cough…was I getting sick?  Would I have to leave her?  Compulsive hand washing, masks and minimal movement became the routine.  I used hand sanitizer in and out of the room (conveniently placed on the wall just outside the door).

Things became more serious when she did contract an infection.  The uncontrollable fever and then the incoherent imaginings were the warning bells that signaled that something was wrong.  At one point through the night I thought we were going to lose her.  Being in the Blood Cancer ward of the Cleveland Clinic has its advantages and they were able to stabilize her. Fortunately other than the stories I tell, Allana has little memory of this episode and what she does remember consists mainly of the hallucinations and dreams that she experienced.  Social Distancing became social isolation.

As Allana recovered and the new Bone Marrow took hold, we began the long process of finding the new normal.  The new normal still included the fact that someone could quite unintentionally end Allana’s life.  Shortly after being released from the Clinic but  needing to remain in Cleveland, we tried to reestablish a norm, Sunday morning Church.  We picked a campus of a large AG church in Cleveland not far from where we were staying.  The pastor would be glad to know that his people were incredibly welcoming.  Unfortunately it was terribly terrifying.  I was unable to establish a perimeter (six feet or otherwise) around Allana.  One especially well meaning woman rushed up and gave her a big hug.  Social Distancing became Social Anxiety just that quickly.  While there were grains of truth in our Social Distancing there was a fundamental change in us.  That is the Social Anxiety part.  It honestly forever changed who we are and how we operate.  Fortunately God is good and there has been much recovery.  This recovery was a matter of years not days or weeks. It followed Allana’s physical recovery to some degree but the discomfort and avoidance of social situations have not evaporated as quickly as the grains of truth have faded in meaning.

All this is to say that Covid-19 and the introduction of a culture of Social Distancing has forever changed all of us.  The normal  expectations of health and safety are assaulted by every news article and political speech.  When the rules subside, the fear will still be there…especially for those who became desperately ill or had a loved one become desperately ill.  There are grains of truth in the distancing and in the fear.  However as those grains fade in importance we will as a people and most particularly as the people of God need to recognize the change, the impact on who we are and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading out of the wilderness.  We can be the pillar of fire and smoke that will lead others out of their wilderness.  It will be a time for the Church to step up and truly be the body of Christ led by the Holy Spirit and full of Healing.

“but for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”     Malachi 4:2

 

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